Heavy equipment began removing the old Portland Traction Co. bridge over the Clackamas River in Gladstone on Sunday, three days after the bridge's pilings shifted and caused the structure to tilt.
Aaron Hunt, a Union Pacific spokesman, said a railway company survey of the bridge in the past three days determined that it needed to be demolished. The company has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies and the cities of Gladstone and Oregon City to get permits so it can demolish the bridge.
Hunt said the bridge had not settled any further since Thursday morning, March 6, when one of its pilings began to shift, causing the metal structure to lean.
We are working closely with emergency responders to assure that any who live or work in the area are safe as we remove the bridge, he said. During this time, access to the area around the bridge will be restricted.
Last year, Metro gave $201,892 to the city in the hopes of providing access for people to use the bridge across the Clackamas River by studying the feasibility of rehabilitating the historic bridge as an extension of the Trolley Trail into Oregon City.
The steel truss bridge was part of a regional trolley line that was constructed in the early 1890s through Southeast Portland, Sellwood and into Oregon City. The bridge was likely built in the 1900s, but by the 1940s weight restrictions were imposed on the structure. In 1968, the Portland Traction Co. ran its last trains from Golf Junction in Sellwood to the Oregon City paper mill. That section of the trolley track was abandoned, along with the old bridge.
The line was purchased by Southern Pacific Railroad, which merged with Union Pacific in 1996.
After the bridge shifted on its pilings Thursday, officials warned boaters not to pass under it.
City's safety concerns
Union Pacific officials said last year that the bridge had passed recent inspections to verify structural integrity. But Oregon City officials called it severely undermined and worried that its nearly 1,000 tons of iron, steel and concrete will fall into the river, disrupting the fragile ecosystem around Clackamette Cove.
In a January 2013 letter to Union Pacific, Oregon City officials put the railroad company on alert. Once again, the abutment foundation on the Oregon City side appears to be experiencing severe erosion from the Clackamas River, City Manager David Frasher wrote. In response, the City Commission has requested that further investigation and/or remedial action be undertaken by UPRR and/or the state of Oregon to address these concerns. I am transmitting this letter to respectfully request that UPRR more substantively address the concerns raised about the safety and stability of this structure in Oregon City.
Those turned out not to be idle concerns. Crews working near the old bridge connecting Gladstone with Oregon City about a mile upriver from the confluence with the Willamette River observed its piling shifting early on March 6. Within a few hours, the top of the piling had shifted four feet toward Oregon City, according to the Clackamas County Sheriffs Office.
County engineers brought in to examine the bridge assessed the movement and significant and alarming, according to a sheriffs office new release.